Thursday, January 27, 2011

Photographs and memories Jason Reeves lyrics

The Accidental Accomplishments

I was almost thirty years old when I took my first really good picture. My oldest son had been born about six months before, and I had taken him to a photographer to do newborn portraits. I was sorely disappointed with the proofs she showed me. I kept thinking, "this baby is so beautiful, how hard is it to take a beautiful picture of a beautiful baby?!?" I decided to find out.

After my maternity leave ended, I wanted to stay home with my baby rather than return to work full time. At the time I was the Political Action Committee (PAC) Manager for a wireless telecom company. This meant I lobbied legislation, held political fundraisers, managed the PAC funds and most importantly, was responsible for accurate PAC reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. What it really meant was, due to the upcoming election year it would be pretty difficult for the company to replace me immediately, so instead they hired me as a consultant doing my same job, but working from home rather than my office. At first this seemed like the most brilliant idea ever. Conference calls in my pajamas! Reading legislation while rocking my baby! Fighting Washington DC traffic once a week to attend a fundraiser rather than twice a day commuting to the office! And all the while I was getting paid more money than when I was as an employee since they didn't have to pay my insurance or benefits. What could possibly be wrong with this scenario?!?

I missed interacting with people on a regular basis. As much as I loved that little baby- and boy did I love him- mentally stimulating conversations just weren't happening with a six month old. I felt my brain turning to mush and I wanted something, anything, that allowed me to use my brain. The contract I signed as a consultant was for a one year period and I had about seven months left.

I decided to use the time I had to do something for myself since I may never have this gift of time again. I enrolled in the Smithsonian's Joy of Photography class. It was a ten week course that taught a different element of photography each class. One week we learned about composition and then had an assignment to shoot a specifically composed image to bring to class the following week. The next week, shutter speed, the next aperture and so on.

At first I looked forward to the class for the little break it gave me in the week to get out of the house, an excuse to get out of my pajamas even and interact with other adults. But as it continued, I found myself more and more eager to learn something new that I found exciting and anxiously awaited the new assignment each week.

I still have the framed picture that I presented as my assignment for lighting. It is of my son (my favorite subject at the time) with his head laying on his daddy's belly. I thought it was a beautiful image of my son, with a sweet little content face, being so close to his father. The professor flipping through my slides (that's the way we shot the assignments so all in class could see and critique) stopped at this particular image and said, "now this is a perfect example of light used not only properly, but beautifully. And your composition is spot on too." I floated out of class that day.

I decided that day to enroll in the next level photography class offered by the Smithsonian and then the next. Initially I thought this will be a nice creative outlet for me. But by the time my company came to renew my consulting contract for the fourth year, I knew my lobbying days were behind me.

This is how I became an "accidental photographer" Now that little beautiful baby boy is ten years old and joined by a younger brother 8 and a little sister 4. Since then, I only attend fundraisers I want to attend. I traded in my dry clean only dress suit wardrobe for jeans and tennis shoes since I spend a lot of time on the ground to get eye to eye with my subjects and I own my own baby & children's boutique photography studio.

If you had told me ten years ago this would be my life today, I would have laughed. I had zero aspirations to own my own business and to my knowledge at the time, zero talent. I thought I knew myself pretty well at that point, but not well enough to know the God-given talent that lay dormant within me.

I think sometimes we become okay with mediocrity in our lives, our jobs and ourselves rather than expecting more for ourselves. We always do what we've always done so we always get what we've always got. We don't recognize within us the power to change. It doesn't have to be a change in career to be life changing.

"Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be" - Abraham Lincoln. This is one of my favorite quotes and all the more powerful knowing that he struggled with severe depression. Changing your attitude from begrudging to grateful is truly powerful, Being grateful for what you have keeps you from fixating on what you don't have- and may not even need.

This past summer some really hard things were going on in my life. I tried my best to deal with them, but there are things that are beyond our control and all we can do is choose how we will respond and react in these situations.

My response to these things was to go running. I am not a runner and I don't enjoy running. But as I ran away from my problems I felt a relief, albeit temporary, from what was going on at home. Eventually I would return home, the endorphins would wear off and my problems were still there. I would get up the next day and go run some more. Six weeks ago, one of my best friends asked me to run a half-marathon with her. At first I said no. I'd never even run a 5k race and I had no desire to run 13 miles (I thought it was 10 miles at the time and I still had no desire to run it). But while looking through the weekly training session and knowing that fall is my crazy busy time of year with work, I thought, it might be helpful to have a daily release through running to keep me sane.

I'll let you in on a little secret- I had no intentions of running the half marathon. I wanted to train for it, but to actually run it, no thanks. But the more I trained for the race, the more the thought crept into my mind, " you can do this!" Yesterday, I became a runner completing 13.1 miles. I may only be a runner for that one day, but I did something that six weeks ago I never would have thought possible. Just because you've never done something before doesn't mean you can't do it now.

Probably the best thing to come from training for the half-marathon, besides some seriously toned calves and thighs is the list of things I've always wanted to do that I'm now working on accomplishing. Because the only thing holding any of us back from accomplishing what we want in life is ourselves.

you can do this

Thursday, January 20, 2011

YOU'RE STILL THE ONE By Shania Twain w lyrics

The Dear Dad

My husband and I will be celebrating the 51st anniversary of our wedding. I have been thinking a lot about the years my mother and father spent together before my Dad was called home. Let’s walk down memory lane together as I share some thoughts.

My dad met my mother when he went to her grandparents’ house to visit her sister. The sister didn’t pay much attention to Dad as she was dating a high school classmate. Dad persisted in coming to the house anyway and one day, when he didn’t feel well, my mother chose to comfort him and help him feel better. That was the beginning of a romance that lasted almost 65 years!

My mother was only 16 years old when Dad proposed to her! She really wasn’t sure that she was ready for marriage. She was living with her grandparents because her mother died when she was only two years old. She loved them and was grateful to them for taking care of her and her six sisters. Thankfully, her grandparents liked my dad, thought he was a real gentleman and convinced my mother to marry him. They were not getting any younger, they said, and wanted to see one of their grandchildren married before they died. My dad was eight years older than my mother. He was willing and able to support her and the family they would have.

I arrived in this world about a year after they were married, one of only two siblings to be delivered by a mid-wife at their home. Their second daughter was born a little over a year later. The romance continued, producing a son about two years later. It was a prolific marriage. I was blessed to have three additional sisters and three more brothers by the time I met and married by husband in 1960.

My parents struggled to feed all those hungry mouths. We were taught to eat whatever was put before us, so we never went hungry. We knew we were loved and cherished and life was good.

I’ll never forget my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party. My parents were living in England at the time and my brother, Phil, planned a wonderful celebration. All of my sisters and brothers were able to attend and it was a memorable reunion, as some came from as far away as Australia.

By that time, my parents had adopted a little boy. Dad was proud to announce, when he gave his anniversary speech, that he had to admit that he had robbed the cradle 50 years ago, but he had filled that cradle with ten wonderful children. Ten years later our family gathered again to celebrate their 60th anniversary, although my sister in Australia was unable to join us.

Dad died a couple months before they would have celebrated 65 years together as man and wife. During the last couple years Dad did not want my mother to be out of sight. He’d miss her and wonder where she was when she wasn’t around. It was obvious to everyone that he loved her very, very much.

My mother is still alive and will be entering her 94th year here on Earth in a few days, as my husband and I were married on her birthday. Her health has declined the past three years and she tells me that she is ready to be called home and see Dad once again. She misses him but not as much as I think my Dad would have missed her!

we knew we were loved

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feeling Good, Nina Simone

The New South

We pull into a gas station off the highway. The green sign at the corner reads Sweetwater City Limit.

We have been driving for hours and my mood seems to be dropping with the thermometer read out on the dash. The view from the passenger side of the minivan window since we left our home in San Antonio surrounded mostly by neon signs, rolling hills and Mesquite trees has gradually changed to a flatter, drier landscape. Even the junk food in the gas station is unfamiliar. I sit stubbornly in the car as my husband stands shivering while pumping gas. When my three boys return noisily from the convenience store, they grumble about the dirty bathrooms and their vain search for Takis Fuego, Lucas Palucas or tamarind candy covered in chile powder, complaining that the counter display boasts only bins of fresh dried beef jerky.

I look again at my cell phone and I silently pass the hand sanitizer to the back seat. The display shows that the text messages I have sent over the last thirty minutes or so are still pending. I receive another error message from my phone company that the texts will be waiting until we reach a coverage area, making me feel even further away from everything comforting and familiar.

We are headed to Lubbock, to spend the Christmas holiday with my husband’s family, but the Sweetwater sign has taken me to a darker place in my memories than even the usual stresses from last minute shopping and family holidays can evoke.

Before my husband pulls the van away from the gas station, I ask him to stop so that my children can see the sign. They read the sign aloud and wait patiently as they stare at me with three pairs of eyes in varying shades of blue, so different from my own brown ones. The eyes come, most directly from their father, but also from my mother, Sylvia. Only my oldest son has met my mother, and even he was too young to remember her. My father died when I was 12, and a tight budget has prohibited a family trip to my childhood home in New York, so they have never met his family. They know only because I tell them often that their broad shoulders, deep laugh, full lips, creativity, and gentle spirit come from my father and his brothers, tall handsome black men, descendants of slaves and sharecroppers who were raised in my grandfather’s Baptist church in Harlem.

The story of Sweetwater is their story, and as I sit in the car staring at the sign, I share it with my children. I tell them about how my parents drove through this town, on their way from California to New York in my Daddy’s brand new Cadillac. When they got to Sweetwater, they were warned that my mother should sit in the back seat, and pretend that my father was her chauffeur. I know that for my three sandy haired, vanilla latte boys raised near a military base in the “New South”, the version of reality in my story is more distant and harder to imagine than Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.

Obama will be the first president in the conscious memory of my six year old. Hip Hop is the universal language of music for my preteen and his peers. My high school son’s friends think his dreadlocks are just a really cool hair style. The Civil Rights movement is something that happened a long time ago, even before their mom was born. Beyond the fact that no one they know actually attended a legally segregated school, they have no idea what it is like to be the only child of color in their class. Forget about “Whites Only” signs. They have never experienced the stares and the weird feeling like we got from the waitress when my brother and I went to the “wrong” restaurant with my mother. I have never had to play Nina Simone and explain why they weren’t invited to a birthday party sleep over. I have never had to warn them why it’s not a good idea to stop and get gas in certain small towns. Although I am eternally grateful for this, and for the fact that my family can without thought stop at any gas station along the highway, even in the smallest of Texas towns; I am also thankful for the gentle reminder that came with that Sweetwater sign.

i am also thankful

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The A.E.S.O.P tells thread weaves a tapestry of inspired persons through their tales. Everybody HERE comes from SOMEWHERE.

T hin K
T an K

Jet Airliner | Steve Miller Band (Uncut)

Girl from Yorkshire

I was raised in a small village in Yorkshire, England. The main reason my upbringing was different to most was that my mother had had Multiple Sclerosis ever since I could remember. At first this didn't affect me too much, other than mum using a wheelchair when we went out, but as time went on, she depended on my brother and I more and more. Not many 10 year olds can say they can cook a full Sunday roast dinner from scratch hey - interesting note that I can't anymore... go figure!

As a girl, I tended to be asked to help my mum more than my brother. I remember having to come in early from playing to help my mum take a bath or help her to bed. As her condition worsened, we had to help her use the toilet as well. I still had a brilliant childhood - back in those days we could roam the streets and the village 'til the cows came home (literally - it was that kind of village!), playing with friends and so on. Yet there was an underlying responsibility to my mum, and one I didn't often begrudge.

Maybe it was this responsibility, but I didn't get into too much trouble as a youngster. I think I was pretty level headed. Does my dad know about the time my best friend and I stole as much booze from our parents liquor cabinets as possible, mixed it together, drank the lot and ended up at the local car auctions trying to bid on cars. Aged 13? Probably. I learned as an adult there wasn't much my dad missed, whether he let it pass was another story. Of course, I had my fair share of scrapes and arguments with my family, especially when it became somewhat extended at the age of around 12 or 13. My mum and dad had split up and my dad later went on to marry my step-mum, Brenda. Adjusting to a new family was tough on a young teenager, trying to amalgamate two very different (it seemed at the time) sets of rules and become one family was certainly a learning process for all. I remember being very disgruntled that I was expected (so it seemed to me) to do more chores around the house than my step-sister was and she was only a couple of years younger than me. It had the added oddity that my mum, unable to live alone because of her disability, lived with us as well. Although mum and dad were divorced, he looked out for her for the rest of her life. Anyway, we moved into a new house - dad, Brenda, my step-sister Tara and I and my mum lived in a little annex on the side. Other people have commented on how strange it must have been living with my dad, mum and step mum but really it kinda worked!

At 18 I moved away to Leeds to attend University. The best days of our lives they say, and they have a point. I had a blast. Not because of the studying mind, though I did come out with a Bachelors Degree in French and Linguistics. At the Fresher Fair, I discovered a group of people that would steer the next 4 years of my life and take me on adventures from Glasgow, Dublin and Paris and many places in between. This groups was RAG. A group of students who marauded around the country raising money for worthy causes. I became heavily involved even taking a place on the Committee (organizing collecting trips). In the name of charity I stood on street corners with my collecting bucket pretty much every Saturday of the year. In the name of charity I, wearing a ball gown, delivered roses to unsuspecting students in lectures. In the name of charity I dyed my hair bright pink (and many other colours). And in the name of charity I hitch hiked from Leeds to Paris. The friends I made during this time were from all over the country and are still the best friends I have.

After Uni I moved down to a town just outside London with my boyfriend (OK fiancé - not that that lasted long) at the time. Sadly I soon found out that this chap was happy to spend the foreseeable future living at his parents house and sitting around drinking tea. I needed more so I moved into my own flat in the summer of 1999. I got my first proper job as an Administrator at a college and things were going OK until I realized that every month my overdraft got that little bit bigger. I couldn't afford to live on my own so in January 2000 I made a life changing decision. I moved out of my flat and into a house share. This may not sound like an earth shattering decision but it was in that little house in Croydon that I met the man I would go on to marry, emigrate with and have a gorgeous little boy with.

I met Robert Phillips in that little house. At first he thought I was a prim and proper goody two-shoes and I thought he was a lazy sod who wouldn't help me move my stuff in. Well, we were both wrong and it turned out to be a lot of fun living there. We often went to our local pub to play the quiz machines and once, after the pub closed, randomly took a drive to the seaside! He took a couple of months to get the message but by April 2000 we were an item. Rob works for HMV and in the course of his career climb, we ended up moving all around the country. In the ten years we have been together we have lived in 10 different houses! It also means our music collections are vastly different in that he has some musical taste - and I don't claim to have any!

In the summer of 2002, Rob and I booked a vacation to Canada to stay with our good friends who had emigrated out there a few years earlier. We arrived in Calgary to hot sunshine and we immediately in love with the place. Over the course of the first few days Rob went up in a glider, we had many BBQs and really enjoyed meeting some Canadian people. After a couple of days settling in Barry, Rob and myself drove 3 hours south to the US border to camp in a beautiful park called Waterton. We pitched our tent in a quiet spot outside the townsite and had an enjoyable evening in town. That night Barry and I both woke up needing to pee but couldn't go outside the tent because Barry was convinced there was a bear out there.

This is relevant because the next morning, there was a knock on the tent and the police were outside. My first thought was that the bear had killed someone. But in actual fact, the police were after me! I had to drive into the townsite and call my dad. As soon as I heard that I knew something bad had happened. I quickly got dressed and got into the police car (funny note - I got into the back, the policeman said I could have sat in the front, I wasn't under arrest!) During that journey I convinced myself that my dad's mum has died. As the eldest of my living grandparents, it seemed the obvious reason. So when I finally spoke to my dad (who had been trying for 2 days to track me down) and he said "mum's died" I still thought it was my grandma. We packed up the tent and drove back to Barry's house. When we got there I spoke to my dad again and was asking him if my aunts and uncles from the US would be flying in. He must have been confused for a moment and they the penny dropped and he had to explain to me that it wasn't my grandma who had passed away, it was my mum. Mum was only 52 but the MS beat her in the end. It was a real shock and surprise though and entirely unexpected (though trying to explain that to the travel insurance company was interesting). I was in total shock and remember the others sitting around staring at me. I think I held it together OK and insisted that, since we couldn't get a flight back til the evening, we continued our day and went golfing. We were only in Canada for 3 days! I don't remember too much about the flight home - I do remember Rob giving me his pillow and blanket and letting me eat his meal when I decided I was hungry. I held it together until we got back to Heathrow and laden with luggage and golf clubs, tried to get a cab. The driver refused to take us because we would have had to stop at an ATM. I don't know if he thought we were going to jump out of the cab with 2 suitcases and a set of golf clubs and run away or what but at that point I lost it and started screaming and swearing at him and the unfortunate police officer who stopped to intervene. I then ran off into the terminal. Poor Rob must not have known what to do - stay with the luggage or come after me! It was very hard losing my mum when I was just 25, but there was definitely the blessing that she was no longer suffering with this horrible debilitating disease.

In the Summer of 2003 we went back to Canada and loved it just as much, the idea of moving there had been planted. We continued to move around with Rob's job moving out of London to Slough, Ipwsich, Milton Keynes and in 2004 we were lucky to get to move to the tiny Channel Island of Jersey. It is a beautiful island, only 9 miles by 5 miles, and the first year we really enjoyed island life. The winters were definitely tough with not much to do and by the second year we were both suffering from cabin fever.... the mainland beckoned. And so did Canada still. In August 2005 we submitted our application for permanent residency. We knew it would be a long time coming so we put it to the back of our minds. In 2006 Rob was transferred to Bournemouth. We settled there and took our first (oh the benefits of hindsight) venture into the property market. We bought a lovely 2 bedroom flat about 20 minutes from the sea, I got a job working for an Estate Agents (realtor) specializing in the high end of the market and often got to nose around houses costing up to 10 million pounds. Life was pretty good.

November 2007 was a milestone month. As well as our application for PR, Rob had constantly been in communication with HMV in Canada and in that month, he started having discussions on a possible move. The other key event, and not a happy one, was the sudden death of my grandma (mum's mum) from a heart attack. My granddad had been deteriorating for years following the death of my mum and I think everyone had expected him to go first. I had visited them two weeks before and Grandma had confided in us that she was finding caring for my frail granddad harder and harder. Grandma and granddad had made a pact when they were younger that they would never let the other be put in a nursing home. I sometimes wonder if Grandma's sudden passing was in some way her way of not having to make that inevitable decision. Being present while we broke the news to granddad that she had gone is definitely one of the worst moments of my life. You could literally see the lights go out from his eyes and he visibly sagged. We all thought he would follow her but granddad ended up hanging on, though to a questionable quality of life, for another year. My granddad was definitely one of the biggest heroes of my life. A man from another generation with a level of morals not often seen today. He was a real gentlemen. And to this day if I catch myself saying "me and Steven..." I can hear him correcting me from the heavens...." Steven and I". One of the two biggest heroes of my life - my granddad - now guides me from heaven (egged on by my grandma and mum of course). The other, my dad, still guides me from this Earth and I am honoured and proud to have had both men in my life.

Anyhoo, to back track a while. Rob and I moved to Canada in January 2008 on a work permit with HMV. Although I was devastated at leaving my family behind, especially an ailing granddad, it really has been a great move for us. And a great place to bring up a family. As if to prove that there is not much to d when it is -40C and 2 foot of snow, I became pregnant in February 2008. Much as I loved being pregnant, it didn't love me so much as I turned out to be allergic to my own son. In the latter part of pregnancy I developed PUPPPs rash, an excruciating rash pretty much all over my body. I ended up having to be induced a week early because of this but it turned out Mikey didn't want to come out just yet so after being induced on the Wednesday morning, finally at 3am on Saturday 8 November, Michael Ayrton Phillips arrived into this world by emergency C-section. As much as I wanted it, parenthood blows your head off in a way that you think you'll understand but until you are there - you never will. The sleep deprivation, the worry, the responsibility, the strain on your relationships. But it is all worth it to have this (mostly) happy, gorgeous little boy in our lives. I could write as many words as I already have about my little guy - how he makes me laugh, how he stresses me out, but I think that is a whole other story!

There's not much more to tell. In November 2009 we made a run to the border and officially became residents of Canada. We bought our first house here a few months later. We finally managed to sell the flat in the UK after our tenants stopped paying rent, turned it into a drug den and eventually trashed it. We try not to think about the money we lost on it, it was definitely the biggest mistake we have ever made, but you have to look at the positives. We have our house here and there are many people in the UK who have lost a lot more than we did. Now we can focus on the fact that we can now move forwards with life in Canada without any worrying financial obligations in the UK. We are starting to decorate our house here and make into a real home. We have already had several of those "is this really real" moments when we are out in our large back yard kicking a ball with Mikey or watching him go down his slide or sitting out on our deck looking at our view of the Rocky Mountains. Yes it is real. It is our life. And it is good!

this is really real

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Howard Jones - No one is to blame

The Seconds Rule

I am in confusion, that after all of God’s patience and goodness toward me, here I am, struggling with pain and yes, even anger. Where have they come from?…I thought at least anger had so weakened within me that it was indeed a very rare and usually surprising thing when it appeared. Yet, here I was, caught in the middle of it, its voice bellowing for attention, the pain and yes the anger.

I knew all the things I would say to someone coming to me with this, I saw CLEARLY the TRUTH of what was happening and yet I could not stop it. I recognized with clarity the tape recorder in my mind, playing and replaying the hurt I had received, nursing it, as if I were a beginner in this wondrous spiritual journey. I tried to turn it off, using all the techniques I had learned over these many years, the Buddhist techniques, the Christian techniques, the Hannah prayers, the sitting in silence, the accepting of it and lifting it up to LOVE with tears and sobs, acknowledging I couldn’t do this by myself. I would gain some temporary relief and THEN there it was again, the old tape-recorder playing again, even in my half-asleep, half awake rest they tortured me.

WHY Oh my God? I know your sufficiency. Why is this happening to me?. I knew I needed help. Somehow I knew I had to struggle through this thing. It was a nightmarish week . I was finally able to get hold of some peace when the wounds opened again and the tape-recorder continued its taunts and condemnations, like a stuck record.

In the old days it was easy. I could justify my hurt and or anger and only see my side of it. But since TRUTH took up abode within me I am no longer able to do this. I see easily the other person’s side, their pain, and that adds to my own pain, that another may be hurting because of me. I tried to “patch things up” and ended up making a mess of it even as my heart bled for the other person.

I needed the consolation of forgiveness, of myself and of the other. I needed to retrieve beauty and goodness. In this case I knew I needed external assurance of God’s forgiveness and be washed again in His Love.

I called a dear friend…how we need faithful and true friends at times like this. I knew he had a spirit of love and mercy and wisdom. I believe God spoke through him, he said it might sound harsh, and I told him to “sock it to me“ not to hold anything back that was being revealed to his heart.

He said I was trying to play God and taking too much on myself, trying to be responsible for everyone else. But what he said that hit me right in my spiritual stomach was something Kubla Ross said. She said that anger and pain were GIFTS, their job to bring something to our attention that needed to be seen.

Even more wondrous, Kubla Ross said she only gives them 10 SECONDS then tells them (anger and or pain) “I thank you, I receive and accept your message… you have done your job, thank you , now return to the back of the filing drawer where you belong, for you are NOT in control here.”

This hit me so hard with its truth. Anger/pain are GIFTS but they must be where they belong, in servant-hood to us, not in control.

I was told to make three new records, positive ones, only about me, not about the person I was working on not being upset with, only me, whatever brings me back to my wholeness. These are the records that must be at the front of the file cabinet to pull out, positive wonderful stories about my TRUE self, for I am indeed loved and blessed am I who is so loved by my Creator, my Joy and my Bliss.

I am creating three new records right in the front of my mind/file cabinet , my favorite records, these are the ones to be in control. I believe that perhaps we can do the same thing with anxiety. I AM loved, I am a beloved child. I shall thank anger, pain and anxiety for being loving messengers …10 seconds only and then replace them in their proper place, in the back of my file-cabinet, until they are needed again to send me another message….10 seconds, and ten seconds only.

I will accept and be grateful for their message, they must carry out their assigned job, so they can immediately withdraw because I HEARD and ACCEPTED the message. Then I shall delight in the beauty of being a beloved child of the Universe…as we are all meant to be… WHOLE, ALIVE, AWARE, feeling LOVED and UNAFRAID, so LOVE can flow and flow, the Holy balm of Gilead.

make three new records, positive ones

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thirty Days of Wonder

I’m stubborn. I am SLOW to come about fully believing in something, but when I DO? I buy in completely. I am also one who wonders.

I wondered what would happen if I quit watching rated R movies.

I wondered if I can run a marathon.

The evolution of a 30 day challenge was a long one. See, I’m a teacher... and I’ve always felt it was unfair that I get the summers off, while the rest of the world works. I decided to be super responsible with my time. The challenge went like this: could I go 30 days without social media, sugar, dairy, artificial sweetener, nitrates, nitrites, preservatives, and grains.

I wondered: how would my body respond.

FOOD was what started it all. I approached this as a challenge, with the idea that I was sorta pressing the reset button in my food world-stripping out all the things that I knew weren’t really good for me. What I found!

1) Digestive issues that I’ve had all my life have disappeared.
2) My addiction to sugar & sweet stuff WAS WAY bigger than I realized.
3) It actually could be conquered.
4) What I eat actually has implications on how I feel physically and emotionally.
5) Food is NOT vital to every celebration. Imagine that!!

FAMILY Wow…I found that when I didn’t run to social media sites to read/post, I had a lot more time to interact with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the opportunity to keep in touch with family, former students, and friends from all over the world. The chance to send birthday greeting and have a window in your world thrills me.

What I found? I really enjoy MY kids. Due to their summer activities-I’ve been able to spend loads of time with them one on one. I respect and admire them. I don’t always necessarily relate to them, but I LIKE them. And my husband? He’s tirelessly supporting my endeavors- and cheering me on. He's encouraging through the good and bad. I am one blessed woman.

FITNESS I have wrestled with my endeavors in the gym. When it comes to working out and
prayer-those two areas really need to be accomplished in the first part of my day or they simply aren’t gonna be done very well. So the struggle became: if I prayed/did bible study I neglected taking care of my body. If I went to the gym instead, I felt like I sacrificed my spiritual well being.

It feels good to be strong enough to tackle any physical endeavor that comes into my day. I desire to play with my kids, my little godson and even my students. Somehow the ability to conquer things like a pull up or push up translates into the ability to face the struggles of everyday life.

FAITH The challenge really made me examine lots of areas of my life. Eating ‘clean’ unleashed an amazing amount of energy, a tremendous sense of physical well being, the ability to sleep deeply and uninterrupted for longer than I have since pre-kids/dogs AND physical stamina beyond what I ever thought possible in my small stature.

The question that kept prodding me was this- If the careful monitoring of what goes in my mouth produces tremendous results, what would happen if I carefully monitor what goes in my eyes (TV, movies, magazines, books), and my ears (music, conversations, etc)?

I HAVE to wonder….what amazing results lie on the other side of THAT?
Matthew 5:8 says, “blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” I don’t think that JUST means ‘in heaven’-I think that means we get to see glimpses of God here on earth….in the form of a kind word, a bit of encouragement, a hug, peace, hope. I sure wouldn’t want to muddy the water of opportunity to see God because I made poor choices.

Of course I’m fully aware that I am incapable of perfection and the challenge of living in THIS world with pure input is gonna be difficult…but I’m ready for the next phase of life.

I’m ready to tackle ANOTHER 30 day journey, because I truly believe God created each of us for a purpose. I believe He creates us for BIG things…and I think it’s time for me to live up to my potential.

i have to wonder